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Cyberwar Out; Crimes, Espionage In

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By Allan Holmes May 5, 2010

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One of the interesting discussions to come out of the international confab in Dallas on cybersecurity, which concluded on Wednesday, was whether the term cyberwar hurt the effort to fight cybercrime. According to an Associated Press report, it does. Here are some comments and thoughts from top cyber experts:

  • "Lots of times, there's confusion in these treaty negotiations because of lack of clarity about which problems they're trying to solve," said Scott Charney, vice president of Microsoft Corp.'s Trustworthy Computing Group.
  • Bruce Schneier, chief security technology officer at British telecommunications operator BT and an influential security blogger, noted that attacks last summer that knocked out service to government Web sites in the United States and South Korea -- and were suspected but never proven to have originated in North Korea -- were also widely called acts of cyberwar, even though they were essentially harmless.
  • The White House's cybersecurity coordinator, Howard Schmidt, has called "cyberwar" an inaccurate metaphor, given that many computer attacks are criminal acts aimed at stealing money.
  • "As soon as you say `war,' people think, `That's a government problem,'" said James Isaak, president of the IEEE Computer Society. "And if that's not the nature of the problem we're dealing with, that's a disservice."

AP reports that Charney told the conference attendees that cyber threats should be divided into four categories to create responses that can foster partnerships: conventional computer crimes, military espionage, economic espionage and cyberwarfare.

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